Sunday, 18 October 2020

The Selous Scouts and Rhodesia's "Dirty War": A Tale of False Flag Terror and War Crimes

Emblem of the Selous Scouts Special Forces unit of the Rhodesian Security Forces. Although nominally part of the Rhodesian Army, the Scouts were directly under the control of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) and not the Rhodesian Army.

The war fought during the 1970s in the nation state formerly known as Rhodesia was an asymmetric conflict which pitted the Rhodesian Security Forces against the militias of Black African liberation movements, most prominent of which were ZANLA and ZAPU. Alternately known as the Rhodesian Bush War and the Zimbabwe War of Liberation, it was characterised by an unceasing brutality which claimed the lives of many non-combatants. Both government and guerrilla forces participated in the brutalisation of civilians. However, with the passage of time, many Old Rhodesians, who feel vindicated by Zimbabwe’s political and economic malaise, have sought to characterise the war as having been prosecuted by the White minority government in an ethical, rules-abiding manner. Among its forces, the Selous Scouts is often touted as a model of martial efficiency and resourcefulness, whose codes of behaviour were beyond reproach. This could not be further from the truth. While the Scouts were effective in destroying enemy guerrillas, they were at the heart of a counter-insurgency strategy which waged chemical warfare not only against guerrillas, but the wider African population. The unit was also responsible for initiating False Flag attacks which it sought to blame on Black Nationalist groups;  a mode of operation which while central to its founding aim of providing the Rhodesian state a dimension of psychological warfare, its supporters erroneously claim was alien to the unit.

The Selous Scouts were a multi-racial unit formed in 1973 to wage unconventional warfare. The methods employed included infiltration, assassination, abduction, torture, sabotage, and blackmail. The unit committed “False Flag” atrocities as part and parcel of their modus operandi. The Rhodesian “Bush War”, as is the case with a multitude of wars, had a psychological dimension in regard to which the Selous Scouts, with their expertise in “pseudo operations”, consistently undertook missions which relied on deception, and such deception was utilised to either kill a large number of the insurgent enemy (Black Nationalist) or to kill specific civilian targets in order to blame the Black African insurgents.

One example of a Selous Scout False Flag operation was conducted in February 1980. Named “Operation HECTIC”, it involved two Black African Selous Scouts named Lieutenant Edward Piringodo and Corporal Morgan Moyo bombing churches in the Salisbury area. Piringodo and Moyo used explosives captured from ZANLA guerrillas to blow up two churches; taking care to leave behind ZANU literature near the ruins caused by each blast. However, both Scouts died after a third bomb they were carrying prematurely exploded inside the car they were driving. They were near an Anglican church at the time of the final explosion which took their lives.

“Operation HECTIC” was designed to discredit Robert Mugabe’s ZANU at the forthcoming elections by making his organisation appear to be anti-Christian and anti-freedom of religion. The irony is that although influenced by Marxist-Leninist thinking, Mugabe did not totally cast off his Jesuit upbringing. For instance, he named one of his younger children, a son Bellarmine, after a not-very-well-known Catholic Saint.

Th 1980 operation suggests that the frequent allegations made by Black Nationalists that the Selous Scouts carried out atrocities against African villages and Catholic missions are extremely credible. They would have used Black African members of the force in the way Piringodo and Moyo were used to disguise themselves as guerrillas to carry out such atrocities. Mugabe, who revelled at Piringodo and Moyo being “caught and destroyed in their own devilish trap”, specifically blamed the Selous Scouts for having carried out the attack against the Catholic missionaries in February 1977, as well as for the gunning down of 27 Black African tea workers on a White-owned estate in the Honde Valley in late 1976.

Why would the Selous Scouts have committed these deeds? The answer is that alongside the war of bullets and bombs was the propaganda war. The Rhodesian state sought to discredit the Black African guerrillas among the Black populace, as well as in the international court of public opinion. History is replete with examples of states using militarised sections to carry out acts of terror. The Red Hand, the terror organisation which assassinated members of the Algerian FLN, and its West German arms suppliers was a creation of the French Secret Service. And the Military Reaction Force (MRF), a construct of British Army Intelligence, was formed by Brigadier Frank Kitson to not only gun down Irish Republican guerrillas, but to stage operations that would discredit them.

This does not mean that the disputed atrocities may not have been committed by Black African guerrillas who murdered those who they considered to be traitors to their cause, but it ought to encourage those disbelieving Old Rhodesians to remove their rose-tinted lenses and confront the brutalities perpetrated by their side.

Lt. Colonel Reid-Daly, the Commander of the Selous Scouts, was a veteran of the Malaya conflict during which time he would have seen and imbibed the more nefarious aspects of counterinsurgency employed by the British Army. While Frank Kitson’s name is often projected as the key authority in the practice of British Army counter-insurgency, the foremost exponent of what came to be known as anti-Maoist rural counter-insurgency warfare, was applied in Malaya by General Robert Thompson.

The Selous Scots were created precisely to conduct ruthless and “ungentlemanly war”. In fact, the unit came to be known for “murder, rape, smuggling and poaching”, and its members gained a reputation as “psychopathic killers” and “vainglorious extroverts”.

The Rhodesian military began to develop counter-insurgency chemical warfare in the early 1970s, and the Scouts metamorphosed from being a tracking unit to being the central purveyors of the Rhodesian state’s chemical warfare strategy. Glenn Cross’s 1999 book, Plague Wars gives a good account of this aspect of the war. An  academic article written in 2002 by Ian Martinez for Third World Quarterly which was titled “The History of the Use of Bacteriological and Chemical Agents during Zimbabwe’s Liberation War of 1965-80 by Rhodesian Forces” is also very enlightening about the role of chemical warfare in the counter-insurgency.

The Selous Scouts were instructed to poison watering holes, stagnant water, slow moving streams, and other bodies of water near guerrilla camps inside Mozambique, near the border. In one operation, the Selous Scouts poisoned a well in Mozambique which led to the deaths of at least 200 civilians because the well was the only source of drinking water in the area. The Scouts were also instructed to spread cholera. Under cover of “Operation Long Walk” in August 1973, members of the unit poured cholera agents into the Ruya River. This also caused deaths among innocent civilians in Mozambique but was discontinued because the agent dissipated quickly in water, and it could spread back to Rhodesia including areas where the Scouts were operating.

The unit was responsible for injecting thallium into canned meat which was given to insurgents under the deception that they were being supplied from a friendly source. In one situation, the guerrillas gave their poisoned canned meat to villagers on Tribal Trust Land who were short of food, and the villagers subsequently died.

The authorities acquired double agents within the structures of the Black African guerrillas who soaked clothing and food in toxic organophosphates. This resulted in many newly recruited revolutionaries dying on the journey to guerrilla training camps in Zambia and Mozambique. This meant that those who had not yet engaged in attacking the Rhodesian state (they could after all have given up or have been told they were not guerrilla material by instructors) were pre-emptively murdered in a cruel manner. Also, because the double-agent perpetrators could be easily fingered, they were themselves killed.

Those captured Black African guerrillas who the Selous Scouts could not “turn” were either subjected to an extrajudicial execution or were used as human guinea pigs in biological experimentation, which of course inevitably led to their deaths.

While certain Old Rhodesians may claim an ‘end justifies the means’ rationale, the results contradict their frequent argument that the war was fought to defend Black Africans as much as Whites, for the Rhodesian authorities did not seem to mind that their chemical warfare programme was by the end of the 1970s causing health problems among the Black civilian population.

In 1979, Rhodesia recorded the largest recorded outbreak of anthrax, a development which has been interpreted as the deliberate use of a weaponised biological agent. Ken Flower, Chief of Rhodesia’s Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) and a CIO officer named Henrik Ellert confirmed in their memoirs that the Ian Smith-led regime used biological and chemical weapons against the guerrillas, against rural Black Africans to prevent their support of the guerrillas, and against livestock like cattle in order to reduce rural food stocks.

The application of chemical warfare*, at the heart of which was the Selous Scouts amounted to war crimes because it arguably contravened The Hague Convention of 1907. Furthermore, the deliberate and systematic killing of livestock in Black African populated areas infringed Common Article III of the Geneva Convention, 1949. Additionally, the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) of 1972 embodied the renunciation by the world community of nations of the use of biological weapons against human beings.

There are of course difficulties associated with specific application to Rhodesia which was not a signatory to the Geneva Convention and, after its Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965, was an illegal regime. Nonetheless, the use of such weapons in both internal and international conflicts is now recognised to be a violation of customary international law. The problem of affixing the successor state to Rhodesia, Zimbabwe, with the responsibility of these crimes can be overcome by affixing responsibility of these actions onto individuals who acted on behalf of the Rhodesian state. This would mean that members of the Rhodesian Security Forces including those who served with the Selous Scouts could be prosecuted by a Nuremberg-style court for a range of offences including the murder and ill-treatment of prisoners of war, the use of biological weapons of war against both civilian and military targets as well as compelling prisoners of war to serve with a hostile army.

It should be noted that as part of the war of deception, the deaths of humans and cattle from these poisoning incidents were used as Rhodesian government propaganda to blame the guerrillas. Thus, part of the strategy of the state was geared towards sowing discord between the insurgents and rural populations. On the one hand, villagers were conditioned to believe that food shortages were been caused by guerrilla activity, while the insurgents were encouraged to believe that their food was being poisoned by villagers. In several instances, they launched attacks on those villages they held responsible.

Admissions by Selous Scouts veterans in regard to these actions and objectives have been rare, but a U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) cable from Harare to Washington D.C. in 1990 revealed that a member of the Selous Scouts admitted in 1978 that they had “tried both chemical and biological warfare techniques to kill terrorists”. And the recollections of the likes of Ken Flower and Henrik Ellert regarding Selous Scouts atrocities are highly relevant because the Scouts were directly under the control of the CIO and not the Rhodesian Army. What is more, the Rhodesian government had a tight control over the media which facilitated the psy-ops motives of the Selous Scouts. The White population were thus subject to brainwashing by government propaganda which included a great deal of disinformation.

This partly explains the reluctance of many Old Rhodesians to accept this less than salubrious aspect of the fight to maintain the status quo.

* A key aspect of the chemical warfare programme concerns its funding. Researchers have pinpointed Britain as the point of origin, from where the money was funnelled through Saudi Arabia and South Africa before reaching Rhodesia. The “British-betrayed-us” mantra by Old Rhodesians forgets that the “Kith and Kin” attitude remained strong until the end when the British and the government of Ian Smith realised that the financial and manpower burdens imposed by the war on the Rhodesian state, made it impossible to continue. The emigration of Whites who wanted to avoid compulsory service, sanctions, as well as the moral contradictions inherent in maintaining a racial state, made its continuation impossible.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2020).

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Saturday, 10 October 2020

Sunny Ade's "Ja Funmi": Fate and Destiny in Yoruban Cosmology

This is one of Sunny Ade's finest songs.

The central lyrics are:

Ori mi ye o ja funmi

Eda mi ye o ja ja funmi

Ori agbe a ja fun agbe

Ori aluko a ja fun o

It is about having faith in the forces controlling fate and destiny. A man’s determination to persevere.

His plea has to be contextualised in the Yoruban cosmological paradigm of the spiritual & supernatural realm ("Eleda") on the one hand, and the earthly one on the other ("Ori").

"Ori", while literally meaning "head", is a metaphysical concept in Yoruba which not only refers to a person's intellectual abilities, but also to his spiritual intuition and destiny:

"Ja Fun Mi" literally translates from Yoruba as "Fight For Me".

© Adeyinka Makinde (2020).

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Sunday, 4 October 2020

Rhodesia: Ruminations on a Former Colonial Settler State

A member of the Rhodesian Special Forces unit, the Selous Scouts in training (PHOTO CAPTURE from Getty Images).

The following is part of the text of my thoughts about the comments posted at my YouTube Channel in regard to a newsreel I uploaded over four months ago which was a 1977 report on the training and activities of the Rhodesian Army Special Forces unit known as the Selous Scouts.

. The Content of the Newsreel

The original source gives very little details except to name the news reporter, identify Major Ronald Reid-Daly and provide short descriptions of what is happening in the reel. The title of upload and the brief elaborations within the text are my creation.

I will go into details later about the allegations of Selous Scouts involvement in False Flag operations. Needless to say, some comments here which have dismissed this as anti-Rhodesian “BBC Marxist Death Cult Propaganda” are wide of the mark. The ITN report gives a sympathetic portrayal of the Selous Scouts. Any rational person can hear the allegations regarding the massacre of the missionaries to Major Reid-Daly and his denial. I uploaded a short interview with Reid-Daly conducted by another news agency and the same question was put to him, and the same denial was issued. There was good reason for him to be asked based on circumstantial evidence. What is more the subsequent failure of a Selous Scout operation involving the bombing of churches in Salisbury in 1980 and to which I alluded to in the description box vindicates that line of questioning.

If anyone simply sees this newsreel as merely “anti-Rhodesian” then it speaks of an inflexible and ineradicable mindset of indoctrination -the very mindset which such people accuse both their real and perceived opponents of having.

. Rhodesia: A Colonial Settler Project Against Which Rebellion Was a Perfectly Natural Reaction

Rhodesia was a colonial settler project. This involved subjugation, land expropriation and the imposition of a caste system within which the subjugated Black Africans were exploited by Whites of mainly British descent.  The social and economic system may have appeared a benign one to the Rhodesians who favourably compared it (and still do so) to the Apartheid system in neighbouring South Africa, but it was nonetheless a system based on the Whites monopolising access to the country’s natural resources and keeping the Africans whose lands they acquired by force in their place.

Judging by many comments made by supporters of the late Rhodesia on this upload, it may come as a shock to more than a few, but human history is replete with societies who have rebelled against such a state of affairs. This was the case with Algeria, Palestine, the Slavic lands of Eastern Europe, and Kenya. And where the native populations who were looked upon variously as “Untermensch” or “uncivilised” (the White Nationalist term today would be “low I.Q.” peoples), avoided extermination, they fought back to reclaim their native lands.

The Black Africans of what came to be the territory of Rhodesia were no different from Catholic Irish resisting British colonisation; the Muslim Algerians resisting French domination, the Black African Kenyans resisting the British or the Palestinians resisting the militias of the Jewish Agency in Palestine and the State of Israel once it was established.

This allusion to Marxist-thinking as the root of the evil which stimulated Black Africans to fight against the Rhodesian “paradise” is as absurd as it is lazy in its construct. The fact that the Soviet Union and China gave aid and support to liberation movements in Africa and Asia, and to some extent in Latin America, was more an accident of history. Resistance against any colonial settler entity such as Rhodesia, is an ineluctable facet of the human psyche.

The Poles and other Slavs who were referred to as subhuman by the Nazis were not concerned about Hitler’s assertion that Germany’s Slavic neighbours owed all the achievements in culture to the German race. The Irish who were lampooned as ape-like, rowdy, and prone to fecundity did not care too much about British-English civilisation which under Cromwell had massacred them. It was under British rule after all that the devastating famine took place. Today, this mentality persists in Irish Republican communities who perceive Israel as an unjust and oppressive colonial settler state and support the Palestinian cause, while the Unionists take the opposite view. 

The Kenyans correctly wanted their land back, as did the Algerians and as do the Palestinians. Why do Old Rhodesians resent the idea that the Blacks would want their land back? As with the aforementioned peoples, the Black African resented the paternalistic and oppressive system, and resisted.

Cecil Rhodes, the man who gave the country its name, was at the heart of the system through which Black African workers were brutally exploited. If such a statement strikes any one as being somehow “Marxist”, it proves the point of the distorted lens through which some Old Rhodesians choose to view the world. The massacres of Ndebele people prior to and after the Rudd Agreement using maxim guns was a deliberate cruelty which went further than the prosecution of war. It was genocide.

Land expropriation, labour exploitation, and genocide: that was the foundation of Rhodesia.

. The Insurgency in Rhodesia: False Flags, Black Propaganda and Psychological Warfare

I note comments relating to the news reporter’s reference to the murder of European Roman Catholic Missionaries in 1977 as having possibly been an operation carried out by the Selous Scouts have been met by disbelief and recourse to the tired mantra of the “biased Marxist media”. As I wrote in the description box, the Scouts specialised in irregular warfare with its methods including “infiltration, assassination, abduction, torture, sabotage and blackmail”.

For those who are ignorant of the concept of the “False Flag” operation i.e. the carrying out of a mission designed to discredit the opposition, I would simply ask you to find out about “Operation Susannah”, an operation conducted by Israeli Military Intelligence in 1954. Known as “The Lavon Affair”, it was a botched attempt by the Israelis to disrupt closer relations between Nasser of Egypt and the Americans and the British. The Israeli attack on the USS Liberty was part and parcel of this sort of playbook. You are also invited to find out about “Operation Northwoods”, a diabolical plan approved by the Pentagon which sought to stage terror attacks on American soil to blame on Cuban Communists in order to present an opportunity to invade and overthrow the government of Fidel Castro. Again, read up on the Anni diPiombo (or “Years of Lead”) in Italy from the late 1960s to the middle 1980s when NATO’s Gladio network enabled Fascist-sympathising militias to murder innocent civilians in order to blame Marxist and Anarchist groups. The bombs in Piazza Fontana (1969) and Peteano (1972) provide examples of this diabolical “Strategy of Tension” (“La Strategia della Tensione”). The Bologna bomb in 1980 was also an example although there was no question from the outset that it was the responsibility of a neo-Fascist group.

Now interestingly, Major Reid-Daly served in Malaya where Frank Kitson, the exponent-in-chief of the counter-insurgency doctrine of the British Army, was developing (after his experience in Kenya) his methods which encompassed the aforementioned specialisms of the Selous Scouts, added to which was the use of “Black Propaganda”. Kitson used his colonial experiences in Northern Ireland against the Irish Republican Army. Feel free to search for information on the activities of the Military Reaction Force (MRF) which apart from assassinating suspected Republican guerrillas, murdered innocent civilians in order to blame the IRA.

Anyone who researches the murder of the missionaries will find out that it was not an open and shut case for affixing responsibility to any of the parties. As in all wars, a propaganda war was being fought, and Rhodesia was no exception. Using the dark arts of false flag operations was evidently part of this. In fact, as I mention in the description box, two Black African members of the Scouts who were involved in planting explosives in churches in Salisbury in February 1980, were themselves accidentally blown up by one of their bombs. The aim of this Selous Scouts operation was to make it seem that operatives working for the military wing of Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF organisation had planted the bombs (ZANU literature was left at the various locations) because as a Marxist, Mugabe (the Jesuit Marxist) was “against” Christianity. This was an attempt to discredit Mugabe’s political party in the run up to the elections in what was to become Zimbabwe.

Therefore, it is not inconceivable that Black members of the Selous Scouts disguised as African guerrillas were used to conduct the massacres of the missionaries in order to present the African militias as anti-clerical.

At least one comment refers to the “savageness” of the guerrillas when dealing with “uncooperative” African villagers. I do not know the ins and outs of every single facet of the Bush War in Rhodesia, but that commentator and others reading this should be aware of cruelties practised by the Rhodesian side. There is a film I have yet to upload about a British mercenary hired to combat poaching. This man was allowed to shoot at Black Africans at once a 6PM curfew came without considering whether his target was a poacher or late getting home. And to claim his bounty, he did not have to produce a dead body, only the right ear from it.

The Selous Scouts acted with savagery, killing innocent civilians in neighbouring countries -not by mistake i.e. the euphemistic “collateral damage”, but as a means of psychological warfare. A good example of this was in the Scouts raid on a ZANLA camp, situated at Nyadzonya-Pungwe, Mozambique in August 1976. They got to the camp by disguising their armoured vehicles in the colours of the Mozambique Army (a classic False Flag tactic) and, according to Major Reid-Daly, massacred up to a thousand.

It was seemingly an impressive tally, except that the Selous Scouts had shot many guerrillas who were unarmed as they stood in formation for a parade. The camp was formally registered as a refugee camp with the United Nations. Guerrillas were present, but the Scouts raiding party saw fit to set fire to the camp hospital following which all the patients were burned alive.

The thinly veiled racism among some of these comments seek to promote the idea of savagery being the preserve of Africans while forgetting European-originated depravity. It is interesting how the brutalities inflicted on Africans by European colonial powers prefigured those visited on their fellow Europeans including Jews during the period leading up to World War 2 and of course during the war itself: the genocide against the Namaqua and Herrero by Kaiser-era German colonisers, and the use of bodily parts in experiments are just two. The Boer has not forgotten the British concentration camps and neither have the Ethiopians who endured Italian camps in Somaliland and who were massacred by Black Shirts in Addis Ababa in 1937.

In the case of Rhodesia, how can the facts of the brutal counter-insurgency campaign employed in the 1970s be ignored? Bulldozers and flamethrowers were used to defoliate 54,000 square miles of countryside. The “Free Fire Zones” set up by the Rhodesian Army meant that any Black African found within them would be shot on sight. There were curfews imposed on the Black population (effectively martial law) and there was internment and forced resettlement.

There was a campaign of terror which did not stop with killing Black African guerrillas - many of whom were not killed in action but tortured prior to being murdered- it also extended to Black African civilians.

. The Insurgency in Rhodesia: A Lost Cause

Some of the commentators on this page are Black. They have objectively stated that the Selous Scouts were a formidable fighting force. I have acknowledged this fact in the description box. But they were fighting a lost cause. The frequent references to being “betrayed” by the British (and the Americans) has a hollow ring to it. It is redolent of the “stab in the back” rationale popularised by German Nationalists in the aftermath of World War 1.

The war in Rhodesia, as was the case with the wars in Angola and Mozambique, came at the tail end of the decolonisation of Africa. The Selous Scouts doubtlessly had many victories, but so did the French military in Algeria, the British in Kenya and Aden and the Portuguese in southern Africa.

Rhodesia would have collapsed without the support of the British whose kith and kin policy essentially held sway right to the end. They did not invade Rhodesia after UDI. The British bypassed sanctions by supplying Rhodesia with oil through Mozambique until the Portuguese withdrew.

. Modern Day Racial Warfare & Identity Politics

It seems to me that those who yearn for old Rhodesia have fused their ideological raison d’etre with the present-day manifestations of identity politics. They are White Nationalists or in the parlance of many on the mainstream political left, “White Supremacists”. The use of the term White Supremacist is in many ways an objective one. White Rhodesians after all enjoyed a great amount of privilege; real, tangible privilege. Not the asinine expressions utilised in today’s “Culture wars” where terms such as “White Privilege”, “Black Privilege'', “Jewish Privilege” and so on are frequently used. They enjoyed a standard of living which owed a great deal to the subjugation and exploitation of the indigenous Black African population. The linkage with White Supremacy comes from the use of the old Rhodesian Flag as a source of militant White identity as was the case with the mass murderer Dylann Roof. There was also the case of the Alberta-based Canadian soldiers who were discovered to be selling White Nationalist-Supremacist flags, badges, and literature.

. Conclusion.

The truth is that Rhodesia was no beacon of democracy which offered its Black African population a vision for the future. Rhodesia collapsed under the weight of its contradictions. Some such as quite a number of commentators on this post can gloat about the failings of the political leaders of Zimbabwe, but the truth is that they are living in denial about the nature of the system and the fact that that system was doomed to failure. And as was the case with the French-Algerian Pieds-Noir and the Boer, they must face up to this. 

© Adeyinka Makinde (2020).

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Monday, 28 September 2020

September 28th 1970: The Death of President Gamal Abdel Nasser

Photograph used on the August 27th 1956 edition cover of Time Magazine. Credit: Ernest Hamlin Baker. 

Gamal Nasser was a colossal figure not only in Egyptian history, but in Arab and global history. Considered by many historians to have been the first undisputed leader of native-stock to rule Egypt since Pharaonic times, he was an important figure in the process of organising decolonised African states, as well as the attempt at creating a non-aligned community of nations.

Among his achievements after leading a group of revolutionary officers in the overthrow of King Farouk in 1952, was the construction of the world-famous Aswan Dam and the introduction of new technology into rural Egypt.

He brought pride to the Arab world when he nationalised the Suez Canal, as well as in the aftermath of invasion of Egypt by France, Britain and Israel in 1956. Under Nasser, Egypt was a secular and socialist state and he clamped down on the Muslim Brotherhood whose leader Sayyid Qutb was executed for plotting to assassinate him.

However, his defining ideology, that of Pan-Arabism never came to fruition. Not only did the Union with Syria as the "United Arab Republic" come apart, but the humiliating defeat of Egypt and other nations by Israel in 1967 marked a historical turning point in which many Arab communities turned away from the ideology of secularism to that of Islamism.

An excerpt from the article which accompanied the aforementioned Time Magazine cover which was entitled “The Counter-Puncher” distilled the way in which Western eyes observed the young leader came from humble origins:

Gamal Abdel Nasser is a tall (6 ft.), hefty Egyptian of 38 who just four years ago was an unknown infantry officer in a beaten and discredited army. Not very long ago, Western leaders (and even Israel’s) saluted him as a genuine, responsible leader at last in the Middle East, a young man whose forceful vision might yet bring tranquillity where there was chaos. Today, having seized control of the world’s most important waterway, he is defiantly whipping up Arab hatred to drive the Western powers from the Middle East. Said one Western expert: “We thought we were dealing with a kitten. In fact it was a leopard.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2020)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Nasser and Black Africa

Gamal Nasser (right) and Kwame Nkrumah at the United Nations General Assembly in September 1960. (Photo: Stan Wayman for Life Magazine).

President Gamal Nasser (1918-1970), the Egyptian leader who as a young army colonel led the Free Officers Movement that overthrew King Farouk, was not only a force for Pan-Arabism, he was also a believer in African unity in which sphere he accepted that the leader should be his friend, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the Ghanaian leader and exponent-in-chief of the Pan-African ideology.

Along with Nkrumah and Ben Bella, the Algerian leader, Nasser was a member of the "Casablanca Bloc" of African nations who wanted a federated African continent, in contrast to the "Monrovia Bloc" who believed in gradual integration. At the conference in which the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was established Nasser called for a total boycott against racial discrimination by "all ways and means." In addressing the issue of past exploitation, Nasser said "we are prepared to forgive the past, but we are not ready to forget." He called on the conference to establish an organisation "to guide a free and united African will."

He got on well with Emperor Haile Selassie with whom he worked closely toward the establishment of the OAU. He acted with kindness and benevolence towards the families of Black African leaders who were placed in difficulties. He ensured that the state took care of Nkrumah's Coptic Christian Egyptian wife, Fathia and her children after the overthrow of Nkrumah in 1966, and earlier on, he gave refuge to the children of Patrice Lumumba who were smuggled out of Congo in an operation by Egyptian Special Forces. Lumumba's widow later joined her children and lived in exile in Egypt until she decided to return to Congo. 

His friendships with Black African leaders were a positive episode in the relationship between the Black African and Arab worlds; a relationship fraught by the legacy of the centuries-long trans-Saharan slave trade. Nasser was a Centrepoint of Afro-Arab solidarity during the era of anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism.

Less than 48 hours after his overthrow, Nasser wrote the following in a letter to Nkrumah:

"With feelings of great bitterness and shock, we, in the United Arab Republic, have heard of the sad events to which the people of Ghana were exposed … I agree with you that the forces of colonialism are always trying to undermine the independence of African states, and to draw them again into spheres of influence to continue exploiting their resources and shape their fates. What has happened in Ghana is actually part of this imperialist plan. To face colonialism in the African continent requires of us all continuous efforts and a sustained struggle to liberate it from old colonialism and neo-colonialism. The setback that has occurred in Ghana must act as a driving force for all of us to continue the struggle for the consolidation of the independence of African peoples and their liberation from imperialist forces."

Both men had a similar "weltanschauung". They espoused the philosophy of national emancipation and the ideology of socialism; in Nasser's case "Arab Socialism", and in Nkrumah's "Scientific Socialism".

In 1966, Nasser visited the island of Zanzibar which two years earlier had experienced a bloody revolution in which the Black African population had overthrown their Arab overlords, including the sultan who fled into exile. His visit could be interpreted as a gesture of reconciliation on behalf of the Arab world which for a period of time he appeared to be the leader.

He was much admired in his day by many African leaders and their people for his stance against colonialism and imperialism. This was reflected in the tributes paid to him after his death at the age of 52. Among them was the young Sam Nujoma, leader of SWAPO (South West African People's Organisation), who was grateful for the support offered by Nasser to his movement. And when expressing on behalf of the Nigerian nation the sense of "grievous loss" felt by Nasser's death, Major General Yakubu Gowon correctly estimated that Nasser would "be difficult to replace in our lifetime."

© Adeyinka Makinde (2020)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Saturday, 19 September 2020

Tyron Woodley Versus Colby Covington: As Much a Culture Clash as it is a Confrontation of Mixed Martial Artists

The clash between Tyron Woodley and Colby Covington, two elite fighters of the welterweight division of the U.F.C. has long been anticipated, albeit that the fight has lost a good deal of lustre since Woodley lost his title and Covington lost his title challenge to Kamaru Usman, the man who dethroned Woodley.

Nonetheless, one intriguing aspect of the impending duel is how both men represent something of a culture clash of contemporary America. Woodley, who hails from Ferguson, Missouri, has always been outspoken about racial matters and has consistently supported Black Lives Matter. Covington, on the other hand, has, at least since he re-invented his "persona" a few years back, projected himself as a Trump supporter who is an American patriot in the "Make America Great Again" mould.

It reminds me of how Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier both represented the sharply divided mood in America at the time of their world heavyweight title bout in March 1971. The difference is that both Ali and Frazier were co-opted into representative symbols even though both did not subscribe to either side of the divide.

Ali, who was still a member of the pro-Black Separatist Nation of Islam, did not subscribe to the "Counter-Culture", and Frazier, a non-political man who had migrated to Philadelphia from the Carolinas was no dye-in-the-wood American patriot.

But both Woodley and Covington actively promote the "ideological" causes to which they are associated.

The Woodley-Covington fight, is of course, no way comparable to the magnitude of Ali-Frazier I,  which was described as "The Fight of the Century", the third world heavyweight bout to be so designated during the 20th century; the first two having been Jack Johnson’s fight with Jim Jeffries in 1910, and Joe Louis against Max Schmeling II in 1938. Johnson, a carefree

It is not even close to being the biggest UFC bout this year, although it is a fairly well-anticipated one within the mixed martial arts community, not least because of the personal animus borne by both men to the other.

Woodley, Covington's former mentor, has consistently spoken of being the recipient of a stream of unwarranted barbs issued by the younger man, who has made himself into a figure of hate among many fans. Covington, on the other hand, has constantly referred to Woodley’s discourses on racism as an unjustified form of “race-baiting”.

The winner, it appears will, apart from salvaging his career, be placed in the inevitable position of being vindicated in regard to his position taken in the long standing grudge, while affirming his stance on the cultural divide that is so pervasive in present day America.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2020)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Sunday, 13 September 2020

About Wole Soyinka and Francis Oladele ... and Sani Abacha.

Wole Soyinka (left), Nobel Laureate, and Francis Oladele, Pioneer Filmmaker.

Wole Soyinka and Francis Oladele were drawn together as young men due to their respective talents in writing and filmmaking. Oladele co-produced (along with Ola Balogun) the movie version of Soyinka’s Kongi’s Harvest which was directed by Ossie Davis, the well-known Black American actor-director.

There might have been an interregnum in their friendship over the final cut of the movie, but if there had been a breach, both men were eventually reconciled, with Soyinka becoming a regular visitor to Oladele’s country house in Lapiti Estate, Oyo Town. It was there that Soyinka sought refuge while escaping the clutches of the security apparatus of General Sani Abacha, Nigeria’s feared military ruler.

After laying low for a while, Soyinka made his escape across the Nigerian-Benin Republic border, evading the sort of incarceration which had befallen him under the rule of Major General Yakubu Gowon , and, perhaps, a date with death, as was the fate of several who spoke out against the Abacha regime.

The episode is recounted in Soyinka’s 2006 memoir You Must Set Forth at Dawn.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2020)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.